New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation reports from 2002 to 2009 the number of super-commuters grew in eight of the 10 largest U.S. metropolitan areas. They grew in the Philadelphia area by more than 50 percent during that period.
The growth of super-commuters has occurred not just on the East Coast, but in cities such as Seattle and Houston, which had the greatest increase. The typical super-commuter is under 29 and more likely to be in the middle class.
The super-commuter is defined as someone who works in the central county of a given metropolitan area, but lives beyond the boundaries of that metropolitan area…
Many super-commuters are willing to take a plane to get to work or drive long distances because they can’t sell homes that have lost value and move. They often travel to another city on Monday, then return to their homes and families at the end of the work week.
Americans tend to go to where the jobs are. Here are several thoughts about this:
1. It would be nice to have an overall number of super-commuters in the United States. The full report gives figures by city and some of these are interesting: 59,000 for Manhattan, 233,000 for Los Angeles, 99,000 in Chicago, 251,000 in Houston, and 175,700 in Houston. On the whole, it doesn’t look like we are talking about a large number of Americans though the rise in this practice is noteworthy.
2. Is this more of a function of the size of the actual metropolitan area (New York has a broader metro region) or about the ease of transportation into a city or a mismatch between the number of jobs and affordable/reasonable housing?
3. This definition of a super-commuter is limited. For example, if a worker from Champaign, Illinois commuted to a job in Oak Brook, located in DuPage County, it wouldn’t count as a super-commute. This seems problematic since the job distribution in metropolitan regions is quite more diffuse today than in the past. If this definition was expanded to include all long trips from one metropolitan region to another, the numbers would be even more noteworthy.
4. One of the maps (Figure 7) from the full report reminded me of the idea of the megalopolis:
This is a reminder that urban and transportation planning needs to be broader in scale.
5. Are these “super-commuting corridors” long-term realities? If the economy improved, would these numbers drop or because of technology plus the realities of the globalized, post-industrial economy, are these corridors only going to continue to grow?